Famous Germans - World War 2 | German Celebrities - World War 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

German Celebrities of World War 2 - Germany's Leaders,  Generals, & Women.

 

 

Famous Germans  (celebrities) of  World War 2 are discussed in this web page.  These celebrities or important people consisted of  German leaders,  wives and girl friends of the leaders, generals, actors, athletes, and other celebrities.

 

Some of the famous Germans, e.g., Hitler, Goebbels, etc,  might be considered "infamous" rather than famous.

 

 

A.  The German Leaders - Competent & Ruthless

 

 

 

The German Leaders of World War 2   could get things done but most were cut-throat Nazis

 

 

 

 

 

Adolf Hitler

 

(Der Fuehrer - The Leader)    The German leader  during World War 2.  One of the great villains of world history.  

 

Hitler  spent much of his young life as an impoverished artist and, during this time, developed a fanatical interest in politics and a deep hatred toward Jews.  He was severely wounded in World War I, and bitterly felt that Germany had been betrayed (stabbed in the back) in the war.   Hitler joined a small political party - National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nazi Party) -  and became its leader in two years. 

 

In 1923, the small political party attempted to seize control of Bavaria in the infamous Beer-Hall Putsch.  They were stopped and   Hitler was thrown into jail and, while incarcerated, wrote his political statement:  Mein Kampf or My Struggle.  The book told with uncanny detail what Hitler planned to do but few paid any attention.

 

After release from prison, Hitler returned to politics and resumed his quick rise as a top German Leader.  In 1933, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany and immediately took steps to set up a totalitarian state in which he had sole power.  

 

In 1939, Hitler initiated World War II by attacking Poland.  After 5 years of war, Hitler's reign of terror ended in April 1945 when he and his bride of one day, Eva Braun, committed suicide together.

 

 

 

Hermann Goering

 

The number 2 leader and commander of the Luftwaffe.  A  famous World War I fighter pilot ace.  Goering was badly wounded in the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923.  Not only was Goering a German celebrity, he was also very popular with the common people who identified with him.  Goering's professional reputation, however, suffered greatly with Hitler as a result of the Luftwaffe's setbacks in the battles of Britain and Stalingrad. 

 

Goering was convicted of war crimes by the Allies at Nuremberg and sentenced to death.  Cyanide was smuggled to him, however, and, two hours before he was to be hanged, he committed suicide. 

 

 

 

 

Goebbels, Paul Joseph

 

 Propaganda Minister.   Highly educated (PhD) and very intelligent.  One of the most fanatical of the Nazis.   

 

nbsp;In his propaganda campaigns, Goebbels used all forms of the media but stressed radio which Goebbels said was his "No. 1 weapon in maintaining the Nazi state"     

 

In April 1945, as the end approached, Goebbels had his wife, Magda, and himself shot after Magda had killed their six children with cyanide.  He did not see any reason for the family to live in a world without Hitler.

 

A German celebrity that the world would have been better off without.

 

 

 

 Himmler, Heinrich 

 

Head of the SS.  The most feared German leader, he held the power of life and death over all and did not mind using it.  Being a master organizer made him even more dangerous.   He was quiet and introverted but with so much political power that he was even  allowed to have his own armies in addition to the Gestapo, the secret police force. The Gestapo was one of the most powerful and cruel police forces that ever existed.  

 

 When the war ended, Himmler blended in with refugees in an attempt to escape but was apprehended and, as he was being examined, he committed suicide with cyanide poison implanted in a tooth.  

 

Himmler was a famous German who had no redeeming features.  

 

 

 

 Bormann, Martin

 

 Hitler's private secretary.  A shadowy figure who never made speeches but who was one of the most powerful German leaders.  He obtained his power from his close association with Hitler.   

 

After Hitler committed suicide in the bunker, Bormann made a run for it and was apparently killed by a Soviet bullet as he ran.  His death has been disputed and the strongest rumor of the post-war era is that Bormann escaped to South America. 

 

 

 

Hess, Rudolf

 

The No. 2 leader for a number of years.  Like many German leaders, Hess was wounded in World War I..  Hess was at Hitler's side in the 1923 Beer-Hall Putsch and was sentenced to prison.  In prison, he served as Hitler's secretary and took dictation as Hitler wrote Mein Kampf. 

 

All of Hess's  efforts in the Nazi party came to naught in 1941 when he apparently became somewhat mentally unbalanced and flew solo to England for the apparent purpose of talking England into a peace treaty.  After the war, Hess was tried at Nuremberg and sentenced to life imprisonment.  After over 40 years in prison, Hess hung himself. 

 

I am of the opinion that Hess deserved a more sympathetic treatment than he received. 

 

 

 

Speer, Albert 

 

Referred to as the "good Nazi" although many have strongly disagreed with that tag.  Speer was Hitler's architect and the two built German dream cities together.    

 

In 1941, Speer became Minister of Armaments and War Production  Speer showed great talent in the job pushing war armament production to new heights even as pressure from Allied bombing intensified.  

 

Toward the end of World War 2, Speer turned against Hitler when Hitler began to order the destruction of German facilities because he thought the German people unworthy of him.   

 

After the war, Speer was tried at Nuremberg where he confessed (sort of) his part in the crimes of the Nazis.  He spent 20 years in prison for his crimes.

 

With his mixture of good and bad qualities, Speer was one of the most interesting of the German Celebrities. 

 

 

 

Heydrich, Reinhard

 

Himmler's assistant.  Administrator of the concentration camps and also head of other top level security - terror functions.  He worked out the details of the "final solution" at the instruction of Hitler acting through Goering.   Although one of the most cold-blooded killers in history, he was also a lover of fine music and beautiful women - his only redeeming features.  He was assassinated by two Czech resistance fighters in May, 1942. 

 

 

 

Roehm, Ernst

 

Chief of the SA (Storm Troopers).  A bully boy.  He was wounded several times in World War I as were many other German leaders.  He also participated in the Beer Hall Putsch with Hitler.  After organizing the Storm Troopers and defeating the Communists in the streets, Roehm became a little too ambitious and was eliminated  by his trusted friend Hitler during the "night of the long knives" that started on June 30, 1934. Roehm's homosexuality (and that of many SA leaders) plus the rowdy behavior of the entire organization was a factor in his downfall. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Famous Generals 

 

For detailed information, see  German Generals of World War 2 and American Generals of World War 2.

 

 

 

 

1. Keitel, Wilhelm.  General Field Marshal. Hitler's chief military advisor throughout the Second World War and a man who was completely loyal to Hitler.   He moved into a high position in the army in 1938 when scandals forced two top generals from their posts.   After the war, he was tried and convicted at Nuremberg and hanged. 

 

 

2. Jodl, Alfred.  Colonel General and Chief of the Operations Staff during the war.  Hitler's first adviser on strategic and operations matters.  Hitler was his hero and Jodl never opposed him. Jodl helped plan the invasion of Russia.  Convicted at Nuremberg, Jodl was hanged.

 

 

 

3.  Guderian, Heinz.  Colonel General.     Guderian, the Panzer General, as he is often referred to, is regarded as one of the leading  pioneers of modern mechanized warfare.    Guderian's panzers played a major role in the Blitzkrieg victories over Poland and France. He was very audacious in battle, always operating at the very limit of his authority. He had studied Liddell Hart's 'indirect' strategic concept and was a master of it.  He never assaulted his opponent head-on but always at a soft spot or along the flanks. They never knew what hit them even though he had previously written books describing his strategy and tactics.  

 

One of the great tactical generals of all time, Guderian never lost a battle anywhere but may have cost the Germans the war, when, as preparations  for the attack on Moscow were beginning, he, operating virtually independently with blessings from Hitler, took his army far from Moscow to destroy multiple Russian  armies to the south while his immediate superior, General Halder, fumed.  Guderian had accomplished some impressive feats, but he was more needed before Moscow to prepare for probably the decisive battle of the war.  After the attack on Moscow stalled, Hitler had had it with his favorite general and demoted Guderian into near-oblivion. 

 

 

4.  Manstein, Erich von.  General Field Marshal.  Along with General Guderian (above), one of the two top military minds of World War 2   The mastermind of the Blitzkrieg against France and the low land countries in 1940 (although Hitler apparently tried to take credit).  He then was a major player in the assault on Russia.  

 

 

5.  Rommel, Erwin.  General Field Marshal.  The  "Desert Fox".    Served in World War I and stayed in the army after the war.  During World War 2 he was probably Germany's most famous general.  Rommel became commander of the Afrika Korps in 1941 and there followed a series of battles across what is now Libya with the British in which one side and then the other would have the advantage.  Rommel's forces had the early advantage and by the end of 1942, had pushed the British back to El Alamein in Egypt.  While Rommel was in Germany for medical treatment, the Germans lost the battle of El Alamein and began a long retreat to Tunisia just as Rommel returned.    Shortly after, he was transferred, first to Italy and then to northern France, to command army groups.   

 

 Rommel never took an active part in the July 1944 plot against Hitler but when, under torture, one of the active plot members implicated him, Rommel was given the choice of suicide or trial.  He chose suicide by poison and was given a hero's funeral. 

 

 

6.  Dietrich,  Josef "Sepp."  One of the most  colorful, aggressive, and rowdy of German generals.    He joined the Nazi party in the twenties and somehow Hitler heard of him and promoted him to commander of Hitler's body guard.  During the "night of the long knives" of July 30, 1934, Hitler ordered Dietrich to select a firing squad and execute the list of condemned men.  Dietrich did this although he knew many of the men well.   Dietrich commanded a tank corps in the Battle of France and later commanded an SS Army in Russia. 

 

Hitler trusted him so, in 1944, he was brought back to the western front and led the Sixth Panzer army in the Battle of the Bulge. 

 

After the war, Dietrich was convicted of the murder of American prisoners of war and spent 10 years in jail for the crime.   

 

 

7.  Stauffenberg, Claus.  Stauffenberg, a Lieutenant Colonel on the German Army General Staff   After being seriously wounded (he lost one eye and one hand) in 1943, he began to play a very active leadership role in the plot to kill Hitler.

 

Stauffenberg was the person chosen to place the bomb near Hitler in the 1944 bomb plot to kill Hitler and seize control of the government.   On July 20, 1944, Claus Stauffenberg carried a briefcase filled with explosives to a staff meeting in Rastenburg, East Prussia and placed it near Hitler.  He then left the meeting, and after witnessing the explosion and thinking Hitler dead, headed for Berlin where his fellow conspirators were supposed to be in the process of seizing control of the German government.  He did not know that someone had unintentionally moved the briefcase to a location which deflected much of the explosion away from Hitler.  Hitler lived though wounded and the quick-thinking Goebbels took quick action in informing the German nation that Hitler was alive. 

 

When Stauffenberg arrived in Berlin, he found a firing squad awaiting him instead of a victory celebration. 

 

 

8.  Skorzeny, Otto.  An S.S. Colonel.   Probably the bravest (some call it foolhardiest) of the German fighters.  In July 1943, Skorzeny performed a daring rescue of Mussolini, the deposed Italian dictator, who was being held high in the Apennines mountains.  Skorzeny flew via glider into the hideout with German commandos, took Mussolini from his captors and then flew Mussolini from the mountain in a small airplane, after taking off from a mountain field that seemed virtually impassible by aircraft.   Skorzeny was also involved in putting down the plot to bomb Hitler in July 1944. 

 

During the Battle of the Bulge, Skorzeny led several thousand English-speaking Germans in captured uniforms and equipment working behind U.S. lines to create havoc.  As the tide turned against the Germans  in the battle, many of these men were captured, and, as the rules of war allow with soldiers wearing the other side's uniform, were executed. 

 

After the war and after being acquitted of war crimes by an American war tribunal, Skorzeny worked for a time with the Americans. He was arrested by German officials but escaped the German prison.   Skorzeny then began to work helping S.S. members escape from Germany.  Later, he settled in Spain, became a successful businessman and ended up living the life of luxury owning estates in both Ireland and Spain.  You might say that Skorzeny was the German James Bond.

 

 

 

 

The Famous German Women  - Many Loved Hitler and Some Met Violent Ends

 

For details on German Women of World War 2, go to  German Women of World War 2

 

 

 

1.  Braun, Eva, the Most Famous of the Women.  

 

Hitler's mistress from 1932 to 1945 and his wife for one day. 

 

The relationship between Hitler and Eva was kept from the public as much as possible.     

 

Near the end of World War Two, Eva showed up at the Bunker and said she was not leaving.  Hitler put on a show of  trying to get her to leave but she refused.  

 

As World War 2 was coming to a close, she committed suicide with Hitler by taking cyanide poison. 

 

 

 

2.  Goebbels, Magda, the Most Tragic of The German Women. 

 

Goebbels wife  who committed, at the apparent insistence of her husband, the unpardonable sin of murdering her six children. 

 

Magda Goebbels, born in 1901, was a beautiful,  promiscuous woman with a Jewish stepfather.   She discovered the Nazi party and, while working in party offices, she met and married the fanatical Joseph Goebbels.    

 

Hitler had been fond of Magda before her marriage and remained very close to the Goebbles as they produced a family of six children.    Since Hitler was not married, Magda served on many occasions as "first lady" of the German nation. 

 

When Hitler withdrew to the Bunker, Paul and Magda Goebbels and their six children followed him.  Near the end, Joseph Goebbels made a decision that they would all die with Hitler.   Magda was decimated by this decision but apparently did nothing to stop it although Hitler tried to convince her otherwise and Albert Speer, a friend of Magda, also offered refuge for Magda and the children. 

 

The day after Hitler died, Magda allegedly fed the children cyanide poison-laced hot chocolate.  Then she and her husband had themselves shot and their corpses burned by soldiers. 

 

 

3.  Riefenstahl, Leni, the Most Talented of the German Women. 

 

Actress, director, and producer.  After a career as ballet dancer and actress, Leni Riefenstahl formed her own film company in 1931 to produce the successful film 'The Blue Light.'  She was eventually appointed by Hitler to produce films for  the Nazi Party.  Her films won many international awards. 

 

After the war, the tables were turned on  Leni Riefenstahl who denied she had ever been a Nazi.  She spent four years in Allied prisons.    Riefenstahl also denied any romantic involvement with Hitler although there is no doubt that they knew each other very well.  None of her denials did any good. The castigation continued.  However, Riefenstahl was a street fighter and she started a new career in making documentary films.    She completed many documentary films.   

 

 

 

4.  Raubal, Angela (Geli), the German Woman that Hitler Loved. 

 

It has been often stated that Geli was Hitler's only true love. Hitler has stated that she was the only woman he would have ever married (although, he did marry Eva Braun on the last day of his life).   Geli was his niece by his half sister, Angela.  In 1925, when Angela became Hitler's housekeeper, the vivacious Geli went with her and Hitler fell in love with her.  They became virtually inseparable and Hitler took her with him everywhere including to meetings of high Nazi big wigs.  Eventually, though, problems arose as Hitler's penchant for total control of every aspect of Geli's life became to take a toll on the relationship. 

 

Finally, Geli revolted and began to talk of leaving for Vienna.  Hitler ordered her not to go.   On September 18, Geli was found shot to death in her apartment.   It was an apparent suicide but that supposition has never been proven for sure.  

 

 

 

5.  Dietrich, Marlene, The Anti-Nazi Celebrity. 

 

 Marlene Dietrich was born in Germany and became a movie actress and singer.  The movie, The Blue Angel, in 1930 made Marlene famous.  After 1933, Marlene refused to live in Germany because of the Nazi regime who wanted her to broadcast propaganda.  She began to make American movies and became an American citizen. She was one of the singers of the war song "Lili Marlene," a song that was a favorite on both the Axis and Allied sides in World War 2.

 

 

 

6.  Anne Frank. 

 

Ms. Frank was a teenage German Jewish  girl who hid out with members of her family in a warehouse in the Netherlands for several years during World War 2.  Anne kept a diary of daily activities while hiding.  When the Gestapo finally found them, Anne was taken to Belsen Concentration Camp where she died a few months later.  Later, Anne's father, Otto Frank, returned to the warehouse and found Anne's diary  which was then widely published as The Diary of a Young Girl

 

 

 

Other Famous & Important Germans of World War 2

 

 

1.  Max Schmeling.

 

German Boxer.  Max Schmeling won the world heavyweight boxing championship from Jack Sharkey in 1930 and held the title for two years when he lost it to Sharkey in a much-disputed decision.  He was one of the few fighters to ever defeat Joe Louis in his prime, knocking him out in a fight (1936) generally considered  to be the greatest upset in boxing history.  Louis knocked out Schmeling in the first round of  their rematch, giving him a savage beating.  These bouts between Louis and Schmeling took place on the eve of World War 2 and the atmosphere was tense.  However, both men refused to take part in the hype of the event and, after the bouts, they became friends.

 

During the World War 2 era, Schmeling, a German hero, was asked by Hitler to join the Nazi Party but he refused to do so. Pressure was put on Schmeling  to leave his non-German wife but, again, he refused to cave in to the Nazis.  Schmeling also helped several Jewish people escape possible death by hiding them.  He served in the German Paratroops during the war and participated in the paratroop jumps onto the island of Crete during the bloody battle for that Greek island. 

 

After World War 2, Schmeling made a brief comeback and used the money to become a successful businessman.  Schmeling was a very generous and kind soul and it is said he generously helped Joe Louis with gifts of money when the brown bomber fell upon hard times after his boxing career was over.  He also paid for Louis' funeral.  He did this even though Louis had slaughtered him, mercilessly, in their famous rematch.

 

Max Schmeling died at age 99 on February 3, 2005.  He was one German that refused to become a Nazis.

 

 

2.  Albert Einstein.

 

German physicist considered one of the brightest scientist who ever lived.  Most famous for his general theory of relativity with the formula  E = mc2  which indicated that mass and energy were equivalent.  When the Nazis came to power, Einstein, a Jew and a critic of the Nazi movement, became a target of the Nazis, and he moved to England and then to the U.S.  In 1939, he wrote the famous letter to President Roosevelt warning him that the Nazis might develop a nuclear bomb.   This eventually led to the American development and use of atomic bombs. 

 

 

3.  Wernher Von Braun. 

 

Shortly after World War 2 ended, the U.S. enlisted a number of scientists to emigrate to the United States.  Foremost among them was rocket scientist, Wernher Von Braun.  Von Braun had been technical director of the German rocket weapon project at Peenemunde where the V-2 rocket, used with great effect against England, was developed.  In the United States, Von Braun played a key role in the development of the US satellite program, the Jupiter-C rocket, and the Saturn rocket which played a key role in the American moon flight program.

 

 

Famous Non-Germans Associated With Germany in World War 2

 

These famous non-Germans are included because of their close association with Germany before or during World War 2.

 

1.  Mussolini, Benito. 

An Italian leader of importance to the Axis powers was Benito Mussolini.     After World War 1, he became involved in the Fascist movement which featured strong nationalism over the rights of the individual.  As economic conditions in Italy deteriorated after World War I, many citizens began to support the movement.  After violent street fights in which the Fascists were victorious, the Fascists gained control of Italy.  In 1922, Mussolini's Fascists staged the "march on Rome."   Mussolini was made prime minister of Italy in 1922.  Mussolini was the Fascist dictator of Italy from 1922 until 1943.

 

All in all, Mussolini was very successful in domestic areas.   It was foreign affairs that caused Mussolini's eventual downfall.  He  started looking to see how he could restore the old Roman empire.  In 1940, he invaded Greece from Albania but the hearty Greeks chased him back to Albania.  Mussolini's new friend, Hitler, had to send a rescue mission in 1941, and in the process, the Germans conquered most of the Balkans including Greece.  However, soon disaster followed disaster as the Axis powers began to lose World War 2.  Hitler supported Mussolini as much as possible, but eventually the Italian partisans caught up with him and  his mistress, Clara Petacci, and executed them in gruesome fashion. 

 

 

 

Web Sites for Famous Germans - World War 2.

 

1.  Germany World War 2Causes of World War 2.  The major battles that Germany fought in.   German strategy.

 

 

 

 

 

Famous Germans of World War 2 - Conclusions.  

 

Germany had its share of  famous people in World War 2.  The famous people included German leaders, Women, Generals, Actors, Athletes.

 

 

 

 

 

Updated        04/25/14